Records of the Edinburgh Plinian Society

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The records of the Edinburgh Plinian Society consist of a Minute Book for the period 1826-1828 and a Minute Book for the period 1828-1841. Appended to the relevant volume is a note of the references to the membership of Charles Darwin.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Plinian Society in Edinburgh first met on 14 January 1823. It met at the University (then known as Edinburgh College). During the first meeting, Mr. John Baird, one of the presidents, made a statement on the 'proposed plan and objects' of the Society - to advance the study of natural history, antiquities, and the physical sciences in general. Baird also showed a collection of simple minerals, mountain rocks and shells, and Mr. Thompson showed a specimen of galena 'associated with Pearl-spar and Fluorspar'. Included among the honorary members of the Society were: Robert Jameson, Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh University; Thomas C. Hope, Professor of Chemistry; Robert Graham, Professor of Botany; Sir Walter Scott; and, Sir Humphry Davy. An illustrious ordinary member of the Society was Charles Darwin (1809-1882) who was proposed by co-members Brown, Coldstream and Fife on 28 November 1826. Darwin was unanimously elected as an ordinary member, and during a subsequent meeting held on 5 December 1826 to elect office bearers he was elected to the council of the Society. On 27 March 1827, Darwin communicated to the Society two discoveries that he had made: firstly that the ova of the flustra possessed organs of motion; and, secondly, that the small black globular body hitherto mistaken for the young fucus lorius was in reality the ovum of the pontobdella muricata. The Plinian Society requested that he draw up a factual account and to submit it with specimens. Darwin did this on 3 April 1827.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Note

The biographical/administrative history was compiled using material in the collection and with: (1)  Abstract of the proceedings of the Plinian Society from its first meeting January 14. 1823 to July 25. 1826. Edinburgh: P. Neill, 1826.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Bibliography

Within Special Collections Division, Edinburgh University Library, at shelfmark Dh.5.154 there is a copy of the  Transactions of the Plinian Society. Session 1828-1829. Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart, 1829., and at shelfmark SD 6224 there is a copy of  Abstract of the proceedings of the Plinian Society from its first meeting January 14. 1823 to July 25. 1826. Edinburgh: P. Neill, 1826.

Corporate Names